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About the author:
Melissa is the reader’s choice award winning author of The Breathless Series; Consumed, Taken, and Released. Her other projects include the Amazon best seller; Claimed by You, as well as The Two Hearts Series; Collide and Embrace. She is a lover of books and enjoys nothing more than losing herself in a good novel. She has a soft spot for Romance and focuses her writing in that direction but hopes to one day branch off and do something completely original. She loves music and is obsessed with the band Blue October! She has a rock star of a husband who gives it to her straight and two beautiful young children that show her what really matters in this life.
Here is a short sample from the book:
I must be gluten for punishment. It’s been months since I agreed to fly home and be a bridesmaid for my childhood best friend’s wedding, and my regret over not being able to just say no has increased ten fold over the last several hours.
Trust me, I tried to say no. I made up hundreds of excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly leave Maine to fly all the way to California for a wedding. It seems understandable right? I mean honestly, isn’t it a bit much to ask a person to fly across the country for an event that lasts only moments?
And yet here I am. Sitting in a line of traffic that seems to be never ending with a cab driver that smells like three day old sweat and stale beer. I glance at my cell phone laying in my lap and take a deep breath. The ceremony starts in just over twenty minutes and with every car at a complete standstill, I have a choice to make.
Do I sit here and let precious minutes tick by when the likely hood we are going anywhere anytime soon is slim to none? Or, do I suck it up and walk the mile to the church, likely getting there on time but becoming a sweaty mess and probably ruining my hair and makeup in the process?
I glance out the window at the busy Auburn streets. I can’t remember a time when the city was so bustling and full of life. Of course, it’s been eight years since I’ve been here. And from the looks of it, for good reason. I like the peacefulness of Maine. The water, the weather, the calm. I never realized how different East coast life was until I actually lived it.
Don’t get me a wrong, there’s a certain beauty to California. A laid back modern vibe that Maine is lacking. But I will take late afternoon strolls along the shore with not one other person in sight, over the mess I am sitting in now any day.
Finally admitting defeat, I pull a twenty dollar bill out of my clutch purse and hand it to the cabbie before pushing the back door open and exiting onto the busy street. The cab driver gives me a crooked, stained tooth smile, before turning his attention back to the line of cars in front of him.
Straightening my peach floor length gown, I quickly slip off my matching four inch heels before making my way to the sidewalk just to my right. Leave it to Chloe to pick such a monstrosity of a bridesmaid dress.
The tight bust and flowing skirt does nothing for my shapeless small frame, and the color, well let’s just say it doesn’t compliment my pale skin and dark blonde hair in a way that is at all flattering.
I weave in and out of various people making their way in the opposite direction, before veering right towards Venetian Street and quickening my strides. If I’m lucky I will make it there without being insanely late.
Of course, none of this would have happened had I been better prepared and accepted the fact that whether I liked it or not, the trip home was going to happen. Getting a last minute flight with a two hour layover in Texas, arriving in California just an hour before the ceremony starts is asking for trouble. So as the sweat beads on my forehead and slowly trickles down my face, I have no one to blame but myself for my current situation.
By the time I finally reach the church, I’m not sure if I am relieved to finally be here or suddenly very panicked that I am. I slip my heels back on my feet and take a deep breath. The mixture of emotions I’m currently feeling stirs uneasiness in the pit of my stomach, and I have to literally force myself to open the door and walk inside.
I don’t get but two steps into the cool hallway before someone rounds the corner and runs directly into me. The unexpected collision catches me off balance but the other person acts quickly. Two strong hands brace my shoulders and steady me before I take a nice little nose dive into the hard wood floors.
“Sorry…. I…..” I start to say, but when my eyes meet the man in front of me, my words get lost in a chaos of rapid breaths and thumping heartbeats.
“Scarlett?” His voice is like velvet against my pounding eardrums and yet, I still can’t find it in me to form a coherent sentence.
His blue eyes burn holes through mine and I have no sense of time. Have minutes passed or simply seconds? I did not prepare myself for what the reality of seeing Westin would do to me.
He’s still the same eighteen year old boy I fell in love with all those years ago, only he’s not at the same time. His features are harder and aged. His once bare jawline is now covered with a light dusting of brown facial hair. Not too much, but just enough to make it look like he hasn’t shaved in a handful of days.
His brown hair is short and modernly styled. His bangs pushed haphazardly to the side to avoid withholding the view of those beautiful eyes to the world. I can’t stop my eyes from quickly skating across his body. Assessing that not only is he broader, but he’s more defined as well. I can see it by the way his white dress shirt clings to his sculpted chest and the way his suit jacket seems to be straining at the seams against his broad shoulders and massive arms.
My god this man is even more perfect than he was as a strapping eighteen year old. I didn’t think that was possible at the time but now, well now I am not sure of anything.
Even in my heels, he stands a good six inches taller than me and as my eyes slowly travel back up to his face, I am hit with a thousand different emotions, not one of them the warm and fuzzy kind.
I am not prepared for this. I thought that I would never see him again. It never even dawned on me that it would be a possibility that he would be here.
But of course he’s here. His cousin Jacob is the groom. How did I not even consider this?
“Scar?” He finally breaks into my thoughts as the reality of the situation comes full circle. I can feel my cheeks heat crimson at my obvious lack of composure and I do my best to control my voice as I finally manage to speak.
“Sorry. I’m really late. I gotta go.” I stammer out, quickly stepping to the side and rushing past him.
I get to the end of the hall before I realize I have no idea where Chloe is or where I am supposed to go. I hesitantly turn to find Westin still staring at me, a look of amusement lighting up his perfect features.
Anger seethes through me that after everything it took me to get over him and move on, if that’s what you would call it, the sight of him still has such a power over me. Trying to act completely unaffected, I turn and make my way back towards him, purposely avoiding looking any further at that perfect mouth, wearing the sexiest damn smirk I think I have ever seen.
“She’s down there. Fourth room on the left.” He says, laughing slightly when I once again choose not to look at him.
“Thanks.” I holler over my shoulder as I quickly make my way past him and practically break down the door to where the girls are located, just trying to escape the feeling of his eyes on my bare back.
Yet another thing I hate about this stupid dress. Girls with no figure should not wear dresses that dip so low your ass crack is practically hanging out. It’s not cute, nor is it comfortable for the person who has to parade around in it all damn day.
My aggravation fades a little when I catch sight of Chloe from across the room. She looks more beautiful than I could have ever imagined and suddenly, the eight years that have passed seem like only days and my encounter with Westin just moments before fades into the back of my mind.
“Scar!” She squeals when she catches sight of me in the floor length mirror she’s standing in front of.
It takes only seconds before she is bounding towards me, her beautiful red curls bouncing with every step she takes.
“I’m so happy you’re here.” She says, pulling me into a tight embrace. I wrap my arms around her petite figure and squeeze her fiercely. I didn’t realize how much I missed her until this exact moment.
We we’re inseparable growing up. Our families lived on the same street and from the age of four, when our mom’s would get us together for play dates, we have been the best of friends. Leaving her was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Well, second hardest. Instantly my minds whips back to Westin.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I snap, regaining my earlier frustration as I peel myself from her arms.
“Because I knew you wouldn’t come.” She admits, knowing full well what I am talking about.
“And for good reason.” I take a step back, failing to control my instinct to cross my arms in front of myself as if to somehow shield myself from the hurt and pain that is a guarantee when Westin is around.
“Scarlett Elizabeth Ryan. You are my oldest friend. No crazy parents, distance, or man is going to keep you from being a part of this…. for me.” She tacks onto the end, giving me a pathetic, weepy brown eyed look I was once very used to seeing. Time has not lessened the effect that look has over me.
“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me.” I say, not able to fight the smile that pulls up the corners of my mouth when she let’s out a squeal of victory.
“I know. I’m sorry. But hey.” She says, reaching out to give my hand a squeeze. “It’s been ten years. That has to make things a bit easier.” She says.
And while I would love to agree with her on that fact, the truth of the matter is, when I looked into those breathtaking blue eyes, I was still the same love sick sixteen year old girl that gave him my last piece of innocence only to be left behind like a discarded possession that no longer served a purpose.
The next few minutes go by in a blur. After meeting the other bridesmaids, all of which I have never seen with the exception of Stacie, Chloe’s sister, we make our way out of the bridal room and in perfect formation, walk to the doors that lead to the alter.
I take a deep breath and try my best not to fidget with the bouquet of white lilies resting in my hands. I catch sight of my reflection in the darkly tinted windows to my left and do a once over, quickly accessing the damage that my appearance took just trying to get here. Despite the rush, the heat, and the fact that I did my hair and makeup in a cab, I don’t look nearly as bad as I thought.
My long, dark blonde hair is pinned up in a twist with natural wavy pieces falling around my face. Surprisingly, it is not near the frizzy mess I expected it to be. I can’t see clearly enough to make out my make up situation but from the looks of things, it seems to have held up quite nicely considering.
Even still, knowing Westin is here and that I am going to have to endure an entire evening in his presence, has my stomach twisted so tightly in knots, I can’t quite seem to shake the look of impending fear from my face.
I turn my eyes forward and try my best to steady my breathing. One at a time, the girls are ushered through the door, me being the last one before the Maid of Honor. When it’s my turn, I plaster on a fake smile and turn my attention to making sure I don’t fall on my face in front of a church full of people.
Silently cursing Chloe for not only picking the worst shoes ever, but for also not telling me about a certain ex I planned to never see again, I make my way to the front of the church without looking at Westin even once and take my place next to a skinny brunette named Rachel.
As hard as I try though, I still can’t control the urge to look in his direction, just as everyone else is looking towards the entrance where Chloe and her father have just appeared.
The moment I realize that he is looking at me as well, my heart beat kicks into double time and my throat feels like it might close off at any moment. I quickly break eye contact and turn my attention towards the bride but even still, I can feel his eyes on the side of my face and I can’t help but squirm under the heat of his gaze.
It’s only one day. But one day is an eternity when you are forced to spend it in the company of a man like Westin Carver.